Photo: Katherine Martinelli
As the summer months draw forever closer, I find that my mind wanders to the delicious array of Mediterranean produce sold at the market. The olive stall, outside Rymans, is one vendor that deserves our attention. A variety of different olive oils, delicious fig jam and reasonably priced saffron are a couple of things waiting to be discovered by shoppers.
It’s a little like an Aladdin’s cave of Mediterranean goodies, with tubs of olives stacked high on shelves, ready to entice passers by into trying before buying. It is probably a good thing too, as the selection is so large, it is easy to feel daunted by the different varieties. The vendor informs me that the secret to getting most people to take their first bite of an olive, is to draw them in with the marinade or fillings. He will ask, ‘Do you like chilli? Do you like garlic?’ and with those two tantalising suggestions, you will suddenly find yourself trying a garlic stuffed black olive or some green olive slices in chilli paste.
The great thing about the olive stall is it allows customers to experiment with large numbers of different olives for a very reasonable price. Last time I was at the market, one local in the know, looked conspiratorially at me and mumbled ‘you wait till you get the price’. I must admit he was right, I have yet to buy olives from any supermarket olive counter for less. So next time you walk past the stall, grab a container of your own and have a go yourself!
Time to cook something a little different? Why not use your olives to make a tasty meal or lunchtime snack?
Photo: Pete Jelliffe
Chicken Tagine with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon
(For 2 people)
A tagine is a Moroccan style of stew which is cooked long and slow to let the flavours develop and deepen. The trick to cooking this dish if you don’t have a traditional tagine, is to ensure you have a wide bottomed cooking pot with a tight fitting lid. Cooking ahead of time and allowing to cool down before reheating will only enhance the flavours.
2 x chicken thighs (on the bone for better flavour)
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1.5 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander (optional)
1 large red onion, cut
15g ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced into lengthways strips
1 preserved lemon, rind chopped roughly into strips
1 ½ tsp ras el hanout spice mix
300ml of chicken stock
15 strands of saffron (optional) in 2 tsp of warm water
15-20 green pitted olives
200g canned chickpeas, rinsed
Small bunch of coriander, leaves roughly chopped
Pour the oil into the pan on a medium heat. Put the flour and spices into a plastic bag, pat the chicken dry with kitchen paper and add the meat to bag. Shake the bag and roll it around in your hand to ensure the flour mixture gets into all the crevices of the chicken pieces. When the oil is heated add the chicken to brown it, which will take 7-10 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pot and put aside.
Gently fry the onion, ginger, garlic and 1/3rd lemon rind over a medium heat for a few minutes to give the onions a chance to break apart and mingle with leftover chicken juices. Add the ras el hanout and give a brief stir to incorporate the flavours evenly over the contents in the pan. Place the chicken thighs on top of the bed of vegetables and pour over the chicken stock and saffron. Bring the pot to the boil, then turn down the heat and cover tightly.
Leave the tagine to stew over a medium low heat for 1 hour, turning the chicken once to allow the meat to soak up the flavours of the sauce evenly.
Add the remaining lemon rind, with the olives and chickpeas to the pan and stir to incorporate. Cook partially covered for a further 30 minutes. Add a chopped handful of coriander when serving for freshness.
If you would to continue the Moroccan theme this dish can be served with couscous, but I like to serve mine with rice. It also goes well with Turkish flatbreads found in the local shops around the market.
Jazz up your lunchbox….
With the weather getting warmer why not take some inspiration from Greece in your lunchbox this week?
1/4th cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4th black olives, roughly chopped
1/4th feta cheese, lightly crumbled
1/4th cucumber chunks, seeds removed
This is a simple formula with a good balance of sweet, salty and fresh. Most olives will work in this salad but to my mind dark whole olives are really showcased well with these flavour combinations.
Mix these ingredients together in some olive oil with a heavy hand to ensure the flavours are well blended together. Leaving the ingredients to mingle together for a few hours will only enhance the flavours making it a perfect packed lunch. To serve, why not fill some toasted flatbread or ciabatta for a decadent summer sandwich? Or packed simply in a pot to make a welcome change to limp lettuce based salad? This mixture can also be added to pasta for a more substantial lunch.
You can easily chuck in a few other ingredients to really enhance these flavours. For freshness, why not add some rocket and coriander? Or add some lemon zest for a more intense taste of summer? Have a look around your kitchen and get creative!
Featured Image: CeresB
Words and Recipes: Kelly Pascall